Hooker's absence doesn't slow Longhorns relay

Updated: June 9, 2006, 8:52 PM ET
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Texas women won the 400-meter relay at the NCAA track and field championships Friday despite the absence of their best sprinter, Marshevet Hooker.

The Longhorns, defending NCAA team champion, matched their season-best at 42.84 seconds. LSU was second at 42.94 and Southern California third at 42.96.

The LSU men, led by Xavier Carter and Kelly Willie, easily won the 400 relay in 38.44 seconds. Tennessee was a distant second at 38.86, followed by UTEP at 38.99.

"We knew we could do it, we just had to show everyone else that we're a very strong team," said Jasmine Lee, who ran the first leg for Texas. "We don't have a weak leg. I've been the alternate all year and they never needed me until now. You never know when you're going to need someone. Everyone has to be ready at all times."

Hooker, last year's 100 champ and the leading scorer for Texas when the Longhorns won the NCAA outdoor championship last year and indoor title this year, isn't competing in Sacramento after injuring a hamstring in the 100 at the regionals two weeks ago.

On another sunny day at the Sacramento State track, Texas took control of the event with a smooth handoff and superb third leg by senior LaTasha Kerr. Then anchor Melanie Walker brought it home.

"We all train our hardest every day with Marshevet, so once we get out here and win a championship, I know she'll be smiling on the inside and outside," Kerr said.

The LSU men knew they needed to win the short relay to stay in the team race.

"We know it's going to be close between us, FSU (Florida State), UTEP and Texas, so we need all the points we can get right now," said Richard Thompson, who ran the first leg for the victorious Tigers. "We realized that FSU wasn't able to get to the finals. That was a big swing for us and the other teams. We've done a good job of capitalizing so far."

Florida State had the second-fastest 400 relay team coming in, but was disqualified in the semifinals on Wednesday for passing the baton out of the exchange zone.

Greek Spyridon Jullien of Virginia Tech repeated as men's hammer champion, winning on his final throw at 237 feet, 2 inches. Mattias Jons, a Swede competing for Boise State, was second at 233-11.

Diminutive Dana Pounds of the Air Force defended her javelin title with a throw of 190-3, more than 11 feet farther than runner-up Kayla Wilkinson of Nebraska.

Jacquelyn Johnson of Arizona State, the heptathlon champion two years ago, led after four events with 3,526 points, 10 points ahead of runner-up Tracy Partain of Missouri State.

Fittingly, Washington State identical twins Julie and Diana Pickler were tied for third at 3,451.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press